ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that talks were off between Ayton's representatives and the Suns, who remained unwilling to offer Ayton a max deal valued at a projected $172 million over five years as the 6 p.m. ET deadline for rookie extensions approached.
With Ayton set to become the first No. 1 pick to hit restricted free agency after his rookie contract expires since injury-plagued 2007 top pick Greg Oden, both sides are taking risks. Ayton is gambling his value won't decline after it reached its peak during a strong postseason run, with Phoenix making it to the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Suns are hoping that deciding not to extend Ayton won't have long-term ramifications that eventually push him out of Phoenix.
Taking into account a market where production at center has been available at relatively cheap prices, let's break down the risks for both sides in the wake of Ayton heading toward restricted free agency.
Ayton's value peaked in the playoffs
This time a year ago, a max extension for Ayton would probably have been viewed as the Suns overpaying to justify their decision to draft the center No. 1 overall in 2018, two picks ahead of Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic.
Although Ayton had taken important strides defensively in his second season, his offensive game remained a question. Ayton's 18.7 points per game came with a .568 true shooting percentage, about league-average overall but much weaker than the typical center (.600).
When Phoenix went 8-0 during the NBA's bubble restart of the 2019-20 season, Ayton wasn't a key factor on offense. His scoring average declined to 15 PPG in the eight seeding games and the Suns had a better net rating with Ayton on the bench, per NBA Advanced Stats.
That run set the table for Phoenix to add veteran point guard Chris Paul and shift from development mode into surprise contenders.